When the Cardinals drafted the Hogs' super sophomore, Zack Cox, in June's draft, I was overjoyed...initially. Cox has wowed us Razorback fans for two years now; reaching at least the Super Regional in both of the years he resided in Fayetteville. Then, to think he could one day be spraying balls all over the field at Busch Stadium, just seemed like a fantasy. It is human nature to want your favorite college players to join forces with your favorite professional team. And, just like when the Dallas Cowboys drafted Felix Jones a few years back, my fantasy was becoming a reality.
As the thought sunk in, though, I realized that this fantasy doesn't come without some hurdles. Cox projects as a second or third baseman. Second base, as we all know, is currently occupied by Skip. While my obsession with Skip has little logic behind it, it is still very well documented that he is, far and away, my favorite Cardinal. I know he is probably not the end all, be all at second for the Cards but I have, so far, not completely accepted that fact in my heart. I am still holding on to the hope that he will turn into an elite defensive second baseman and continue to hit around .300 (or at least the high .200s). It just seems like he has put too much work in to not succeed. Skip is to Jose Oquendo as Ankiel was to La Russa. That, somehow, does not make me feel much better.
Then there's third base. At the beginning of the season, it appeared that the Cards had found the long-term solution there. David Freese came out of the gates on fire. He was on pace to make a strong case for Rookie of the Year. Then came the injuries that seem to follow Cardinal third basemen. First was the little wrist injury that did not seem to be a very big deal, at all. Then came the big one. The one that may leave Freese out of baseball for the rest of his life. They said his achilles tendon separated from the bone and was actually on the front of his ankle. His achilles tendon wound up on the front of his ankle. The trainer was able to push it back to the correct side of his leg on the field, which might be the only piece of good news from the whole situation. The outlook for an injury of that degree is not good. Most people are not able to run again. I suppose that wouldn't be a problem for Ryan Howard who either strikes out or gets to coast around the bases after pretty much every at-bat and would be better served to just stay in the dugout when the Phils do that "defense" thing. Unfortunately, Freese proved to be quite the doubles machine while playing with the big boys this season and played above average (not Rolen-like, but still good) defense at the hot corner. I think we Cardinal fans have had enough freak, career ending injuries to suffice for the next couple of lifetimes, now. I doubt the image of Juan Encarnacion's face pouring blood out in the on deck circle will ever leave my head. So to see another fan favorite go down for the count just seems cruel.
I have always been taught to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Preparing for the worst would be assuming that Freese never touches a diamond again. That leaves Felipe Lopez and Aaron Miles in charge of third base for the near future. That thought, probably, does not encourage too many people. Hoping for the best would be assuming that someone, happily (totally by their own choice with no outside forces involved at all), retires in the next couple of years; opening a spot of for the next big thing, Zack Cox. Then, everyone would live happily ever after and the Cardinals would soon be sporting more rings than the New York Yankees. (I said hope for the best.)
This is why I should never be in charge of a team....